“You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell” (Nehemiah 9:20–21).
The children of Israel fled Egypt just after the tenth plague had fallen throughout the land. They had drained the life from a sweet lamb and slathered the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. They prepared one last meal from that lamb before the entire nation of people began a journey to a land they had never seen.
Those people, even though they had been delivered from a difficult life of tyranny and slavery that was signaled by astonishingly crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, still lived in fear of the unknown. Where are we going? A land flowing with milk and honey? What's that? Where is it? What are we going to eat? How are we going to cook it? What about my sandals? At some point will I need to walk barefoot? What about my kids? What will I do with them? They are too little for all this walking. What about the animals? Where will we find water? A million questions must have run through their minds. Full trust in God had not yet become a part of their thinking, even though they had just experienced deliverance from the Egyptians.
The first biblical reference of manna, meaning “what is it,” is in Exodus 16. Often when people go through a difficult time, they first think about the need for food in their stomachs. These wilderness nomads were no exception. They wanted flesh food, but they miraculously received manna, along with explicit instructions. Manna was to be their “comfort food.” For forty years they ate manna. Six days a week they harvested their food for the day before the dew evaporated. On the sixth day of the week, they were to collect twice as much so they could rest from their labors on Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Without fail, God always provided.
In the summer of 2006, God placed a call on my heart. My mom and I were on our way home from a month-long trip between Michigan and Montana where I had some educational training. Our last Sabbath was spent in a Wisconsin tourist town.
We arrived at church a bit early, and it was evident that they were preparing for a lunch after the church service. We were obviously visitors, but strangely, no one extended to us an invitation to stay for the lunch. People were veritably unfriendly.
After the summer with my mother, I returned to my Maine residence by Labor Day weekend, even though I had no work. I had been teaching adult education for two years, but the job had vaporized. Even so, God placed a burden on my heart. The leaf-peeping season would soon be upon all of New England, arguably the most beautiful time of the year. Because of my experience in Wisconsin, God wanted me to extend hospitality on weekends (when there was no lunch provided at church) to people who traveled to see the fall colors.
With no work, I could not provide much: soup, some bread, and a little dessert. Something very simple. I selected a few church members each week to chat with the visitors while I put the food on the table. Soon church members would ask, “What can I bring?”
The meals began to grow. One Sabbath we even went to a church couple's home with the leaf-peepers and enjoyed the meal there, visiting on the patio. Another Sabbath a family of nine visited from Montana. We had plenty of soup and bread, but I had made only one pumpkin pie. I cut that one pie into 17 pieces so that we could all have a taste.
With no income, occasionally I did not even have a dollar to buy food to prepare the soup. However, God provided because this was His calling. He also knew before He called me that I would be short of funds and that preparing food would not be an option. He took care of everything.
One weekend, the church had a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for a church couple to go on a mission trip to India. The following Sabbath was one of those days I had nothing, except a phone call: “Please use the leftover spaghetti and garlic bread for your meal on Sabbath.”
The fall colors transitioned into winter and Maine was extra snowy that year, but we still had visitors. Even if out-of-town guests did not make an appearance on a particular Sabbath, we still fellowshipped with one another over a meal after the church service.
Christmas and New Year's came and went. By that time I had a small part-time job that brought in the bare living expenses, so money was still very tight.
In early January 2007, I received a Christmas gift from a nun with whom I had taught adult education. Sister Theresa was such a kind, loving person. She apologized profusely for the tardiness of it. Little did she know that she was a servant working on God's time. God knew when I would again have no available funds to prepare a meal. In her Christmas card were two $25 gift cards to local grocery stores. God again provided for the Sabbath meal.
My last Sabbath to fellowship with this congregation was Sabbath, March 3, 2007. I had taken a job offer in Michigan. One of the church members asked, “So who is going to take over organizing these meals?” I responded, “It is up to you to finish what God started here.”
Call to Action
Even when you think you have nothing, will you respond to God's tugging at your heart? He just may be asking you to be a part of a miracle.
All scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.